2021 marks our 20th Anniversary for Native American Bank. On October 29, 2001 Native American Bankcorporation purchased Blackfeet National Bank, which at that time was an $18-million-asset institution. The acquired bank restructured and became Native American Bank, N.A. (NAB). Fast forward 20 years, and NAB is proud to be continuing the work of one of the initial founders who lead this endeavor, Elouise Cobell. Their vision was to create a financial institution, owned by multiple Native Nations that would advance economic sovereignty of Indian Country and its citizens through access to capital. Since then, NAB has over 30 Native Nations as shareholders and has grown into a $200 million-asset institution, all in pursuit of the original founders’ vision. We hope the late Elouise Cobell is smiling down on us all as we strive to preserve one of her many lasting legacy’s.
The journey to Native American Bank
Before NAB was a thought in anyone’s mind, Elouise Cobell’s focus was for her own community, the Blackfeet Nation in and around the Browning, Montana area. Back then, in the 1980s, most banks were at a minimum a 60-mile round trip for Blackfeet citizens. Further, banks had little understanding of government-to-Native-government relationships, including Trust Responsibility and Sovereignty.
Elouise became the lead in securing capital and in 1987 opened Blackfeet National Bank. The original Board of Directors soon realized that a majority of Indian Country shared the same challenges in access to capital and financing. In order to make a genuine impact in Indian Country, there needed to be a bank that was nationally chartered.
It was this realization that inspired the creation of Native American Bankcorporation. With original investors of 11 Native Nations, Native Enterprises, and Alaska Native Corporations, Native American Bankcorporation formed and acquired Blackfeet National Bank in 2001 in pursuit of their larger vision. Since then, an additional 25 investors have become shareholders of NAB with over 85% of them being from Indian Country.
Our mission perseveres 20 years later
Native American Bank, N.A. continues to be the only national Native-owned certified Community Development Financial Institution in the country. NAB continues to focus on the financing needs of Indian Country just like our founders envisioned. Over 90% of our commercial lending portfolio consist of loans made to Native Nations, Native Enterprises, Indian Housing Authorities, and Native-owned businesses.
Our deposits continue to increase from socially conscious people and organizations who support our mission. Our growth is fueled by the drive of our diverse employee base, of which approximately half are enrolled citizens of various Native Nations.
We’ve overcome several challenges over the last 20 years. We adapted our strategy after the 2008 recession, and worked tirelessly to get out of a formal agreement (an extremely rare success story for financial institutions). We successfully navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and provided crucial PPP lending to mostly Native-owned businesses enduring this crisis.
NAB’s mission continues to fuel our drive. We have overcome each obstacle facing us, and we will continue to do so for another 20 years and more!
Looking towards our future
Our mission to provide Indian Country access to capital continues to lead us into the future. We are pursuing various projects that will create even greater capabilities of reach. Stay tuned for future announcements about the celebration of our 20th anniversary like: a lunch and learn webinar featuring founding members as panelists, a mural project on our Denver headquarters featuring a nationally acclaimed Indigenous artist, local community events, and an end of year celebration!
We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to all our customers, employees, allies, and all who have supported us to make it to our 20th Anniversary!! Thank you for your business, your time, and your efforts advocating for us! We could not have done this without you, and we look forward to seeing what the future has in store for Native American Bank!
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